Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Visiting an old friend: A Wrinkle in Time.

I've been rereading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, reacquainting myself with the awesomeness of this book. L'Engle does so many things in those pages that must have been pretty unusual in her day. Some of them are STILL unusual. For one, her heroine isn't particularly attractive, though she is saved by having "dreamboat eyes." Otherwise she has unruly mousy hair and garish braces on her teeth. Even better, she is clumsy, recalcitrant, unfriendly, and disliked. Remember, this was written when people were watching almost nothing but "model families" on TV. Imperfection was most often hidden away, but L'Engle celebrates it, showing how Meg's stubbornness is the very thing that is most needed to save her father, who is being kept imprisoned on a distant planet by an evil entity.

When I was a kid I must have read this book about ten times. I read all kinds of books all the time, but this was the one that kept me coming back. There's something comforting about Meg's family life, a nice escape when my own family life seemed less than wonderful. I was a kid who often felt awkward and unsettled, like I didn't fit anywhere, like I could do nothing right, so to see a heroine like Meg in a book made me feel so much better about being me. What a gift L'Engle had! She wrote thrilling, imaginative stories that were somehow also enormously reassuring.

L'Engle died a few years ago at a ripe old age, but I still think about her from time to time. She's not the only reason, but she's a big reason why I write for kids. I don't know how successful I am, but I always try to write books that will make kids feel at home, and will also make them feel better about being the gloriously imperfect people they are. Thanks, Madeleine, for being such a good writing teacher. And thanks, A Wrinkle in Time, for being such a good friend.



  1. Yeah, I read that one. I felt a little sad for Madeleine, that her grandkids aired her dirty laundry to a reporter, and sad for her kids, too, that she used so much of their lives and selves as inspiration for her writing. She created quite a fairy tale life for her readers.